Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Circle of Life

Toronto, Canada

I was taking Shaheen Chachi for a check-up at her doctor's. Her cataract surgery had only been a week ago and her right eye had a patch on. We stood at the zebra crossing at the busy intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. The red hand gave way to the green walking man, and we began to cross the wide street. I saw Shaheen Chachi tremble, nervously eyeing the traffic with her one free eye, trying to compensate for the peripheral vision on her right. Her shoulders had a slight hunch, and she was chewing her lower lip. I gently took a hold of her hand. She seemed grateful and relieved that she hadn't had to ask. We slowly crossed the street, a short young lady leading an older tall one.

Muscat, Oman

Amma and I had just made it out of the airport. Abbu met us at the entrance and took us to his car. I trailed behind the two adults, holding the hem of Amma's qurta as we made our way to the parking lot. Abbu and Amma were busy talking, and I was too short and uninterested in what adults had to say to each other. I wobbled along behind them in my summer frock and sandals. I suddenly saw Gul Chachu standing by our car, and wings sprouted from my ankles. I was about to squeal at my young uncle when I noticed a tall lady standing with him. I froze and retreated behind the safe heights of my parents. This woman was unlike anyone in my family. She was tall, had strong square features, and big curly hair. My mother and aunts were shorter and rounder with straight hair. This woman was wearing a party sari and makeup in the middle of the day. I eyed her suspiciously and wondered why she was standing with my favourite uncle. The adults began to talk over my head, and Abbu introduced Amma to the tall woman. I looked up at all their faces like a tourist surveying the towers of a new city. Amma nudged me towards the tall woman. "This is Shaheen Chachi," she said. I stood next to her, uncomfortable with this new person standing between me and my uncle. The cloth of her blue sari was soft against the side of my face. She took my hand in a strong grip and held it for a long time, a small child with a tall woman.

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